Avoidance: Animal Allergens
Some people think of their pets as important members of their family, but pet allergies, especially to cats and dogs, have been found to cause significant allergic problems, especially asthma. Up to 67% of asthmatic children have been shown to be allergic to cats and dogs. It is estimated that most households in the United States have some type of furred animal in the home. Common household pets are dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits. Exposure to animals can occur when visiting homes with animals. Exposure can also happen to people in certain occupations, such as farm workers or veterinarians. Allergic reactions can occur after exposure to animal dander, saliva, or urine. Occasionally, people experience reactions to other airborne allergens that are carried into the home on the animal fur, such as pollen, molds, and dust.
Common symptoms of an allergy to cats are sneezing, itchy nose and eyes, runny nose, and sometimes asthma. Minimizing exposure to cats can reduce symptoms related to cat allergies. However, this is not always a practical solution. Cat dander can remain in the air for months, even after the cat has been removed from the environment.
The following strategies may help to reduce symptoms of cat allergy.
- Take appropriate allergy medication prior to known animal exposure.
- Remove anything that can trap and hold the cat allergen (carpet, rugs, pillows, and furniture) and clean the area regularly.
- Brush the cat regularly to reduce the amount of loose fur. If possible, bathe the cat twice weekly.
- Wash your hands after handling the cat and prior to touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Limit the cat to certain areas in the home and don’t allow the cat to enter the bedroom.
Dogs appear to be the less of an allergy problem than cats. However, there is no such thing as an allergy-free breed. If the dog cannot be removed from the home, grooming the dog outside, keeping the dog out of the bedroom, and using HEPA air cleaners may help.